ISLAMABAD: The civil society on Tuesday held a number of events in connection with International Women’s Day being observed today, and called for legal and institutional reforms for women's empowerment.

Women legislators from the National and Sindh assemblies also called for reforms in the legal and regulatory framework governing elections to ensure their participation in all aspects of national life, including politics.

In a rare show of cross-party unanimity, legislators representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) agreed on a range of legal and regulatory measures required to address the challenges facing women in the electoral arena.

During a training workshop on the electoral framework attended by at least 11 MNAs, the women legislators urged the government, political parties, and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to prioritise women-specific amendments in the Elections Act, 2017 and the electoral codes of conduct to enhance the quality and inclusiveness in the upcoming general elections.

The workshop was organised by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) under its Women Leadership Development Program, which sought to support reserved-seat women legislators to contest general seats.

The legislators urged ECP to proactively and assertively exercise its constitutional and legal powers to hold fair elections as required under Article 218(3) of the Constitution.

Drawing parliament’s attention towards a gender gap of more than 10.6 million on electoral rolls, the legislators emphasised urgent measures to enable women without National Identity Cards (NICs) to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming general elections.

They called for a one-time provision in the Elections Act, 2017 for supplemental electoral rolls comprising all eligible-age yet unregistered women identified through the population census data to enable them to vote.

Two women senators submit resolutions

Meanwhile, two senators submitted separate resolutions in the Senate Secretariat to further women’s rights and empowerment.

In her resolution, Senator Seeme Ezdi called for commemorating International Women’s Day to promote a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

The resolution recognizes the impact of the digital gender gap on social and economic inequalities and calls for a gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology, and digital education.

The resolution also encourages the government to prioritise education in Information Communication Technology (ICT) subjects and allocate funds to empower women in the digital space.

Senator Samina Mumtaz Zehri sought an initiative in the Senate to highlight women’s rights.

Both proposals acknowledged the importance of protecting the rights of women in digital spaces and addressing gender-based violence.

They also celebrate the contributions made by women and girls in every field, especially in technology and online education.

‘Complete decolonisation of country’

Similarly, the Women Democratic Front (WDF) in a joint statement on the 113th International Working Women’s Day observed that the entire world is overcome by a sense of dread.

Ismat Shahjahan, WDF President, noted, “We are suffering from economic crises, floods due to climate imperialism, and proxy wars. Most western imperialist countries have already established social or liberal democratic republics at the third world’s expense, while we are still struggling in the 21st century for a basic level welfare state that can provide for basic needs and pen-path. WDF commits to struggle till the complete decolonisation of the country. We, as women, need to collectively protest for health, education, and pension services, while denouncing class oppression, hunger, displacement, and regressive climate policies.”

WDF General Secretary Alya Bakshal declared, “We demand immediate resettlement of flood affectees and provision of resources by the federal government to the flood-affected provinces; and complete provincial autonomy, and transfer of fiscal and political powers to the provincial and local governments to equip them for climate disasters and pandemics.”

During an event organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Shaza Fatima Khawaja said that Pakistan ranked 90th out of 122 countries on the digital gender divide and also second worst performing globally on Gender Gap Index.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that policies in Pakistan were usually gender blind, therefore, a more inclusive approach was needed in policy making.

Shamama Arbab, the co-founder of Euro Industries, highlighted that only 1.5pc women in Pakistan have access to the internet and only 30pc have mobiles while half of them lack access to the internet, which shows the huge disparity.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2023

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